You won’t find Dog River, Saskatchewan on any map, because Dog River is a fictional place–the setting of comedian Brent Butt’s “Corner Gas,” a hit Canadian sitcom that ran from 2004 to 2009, and a crowdfunded movie of the same name. In reality, the remains of the set for Corner Gas is located in Rouleau, Saskatchewan, on Highway 39 between Weyburn and Moose Jaw.
If you’ve never seen an episode of Corner Gas, you can still catch the reruns on CTV, The Comedy Network/Canada, WGN/Chicago in the United States, or on YouTube. I had never heard of Corner Gas until recently, but a friend who heard I was heading to Moose Jaw told me to check it out, and I was pleasantly surprised. The sitcom has the folksiness you would expect from a TV show about life in small-town Saskatchewan, with a Cohen Brothers style and wittiness.
One writer describes Corner Gas: The Movie as “about a tiny town going bankrupt,” and it’s a strange parallel to reality, because this former TV and movie set has fallen victim to a lack of funding. In 2009, Rouleau Mayor Allan Kuhlmann gave an interview to the CBC in which he described the property as an eyesore. “We have a lot of tourists that are coming and looking and seeing [that] this set has been allowed to deteriorate,” Kuhlmann said. “There’s no pumps, there’s no signs, there’s no maintenance.” There was some talk that a fundraiser could be mounted, or a nuisance law could be employed, but years later, there’s no sign of action.
During my visit, I thought it was strange that the set seems to have been stripped. Anything of value–the signs, the letters that spelled out CAFE on the roof, the gas pumps–have all been removed. The windows have been boarded-up, and the set largely appears to have been abandoned, and yet, there are plentiful signs declaring ownership and warning people to keep out. I have never understood the philosophy of “I own this, and I’ll let it collapse if I want to.”
I would have liked to have bought a t-shirt for my son while I was there, but the set is simply a boarded-up shell with no gift shop. I had already passed Main Street Rouleau, and I was on a schedule, so I just continued up the road to Moose Jaw and got a souvenir there.
On this website, we usually photograph abandoned places and roadside attractions. I expected this place to be the latter, and it turned out to be the former. Barring some unforeseen development by which this set is revitalized, it’s looking like it will be a long goodbye for Corner Gas in Dog River.
Update: The Corner Gas set was torn down in November of 2016. This place is no more.
Photos by Troy Larson, content copyright © 2016 Sonic Tremor Media